Bundaberg Sailing Club History

Above photo – Sailing in the town reach of the Burnett River 1950

History Of The Bundaberg Sailing Club – 1908 to 2008

Researched and compiled by Marjorie Florence Kidd.

“The re-creative advantages a Sailing Club would provide”.

This quote was expressed by elected Chairperson, Mr. Alex Stevenson at a meeting convened at the Palace Hotel, Bourbong Street, on Thursday evening 4th December 1907 for the purpose of forming a Sailing Club in Bundaberg. Further reports from that meeting in The Bundaberg Star and The Bundaberg Mail, Friday 5th December noted that a motion to form a Sailing Club to be known as ‘The Bundaberg Sailing Club’ was carried with the following office bearers being duly appointed:- Patron-Mr M Duffy; President-Mr. A. Stevenson; Vice Presidents Messers; W. B. Mellor, M. Krieger, J. McCracken, H. Rode, A. Tomlinson, P .E. Turner, A. E. Avenell, J. Davidson; Provisional Committee;- Messers; Manchester, Holcroft, Webster, Allison, Bennett, Stendrup, Farquhar, Quinn, Campbell, Lomax, Hilliard, Foster, Hendereson, Crick and Richardson; Secretary, Mr. McCready; Treasurer- Mr Pile; Auditors- Messers Faquhar and Houston.

The appointment of a Handicapper was deferred with the chosen Club colors to be Royal Blue with White Lettering B.S.C. The yearly subscription was fixed at 2 shillings and 6pence, with a total of 56 members enrolled on the night and sailing activities were scheduled to commence early 1908.

The Bundaberg Mail 29th January 1908 detailed resolutions from the Bundaberg Sailing Club meeting held on Tuesday 28th January 1908 to formalise the Opening event of the 1908 Sailing Season. Thursday evening 6th February was set for the procession of boats starting at 3.30pm with the handicapped starting time fixed at 4pm, orders of Caps and Badges were verified stating they would arrive in time for the opening

As shown in the photograph above the committee from this era indeed looked very distinguished.

This is where we began, sailing has achieved a proud record and will continue to do so to propel the great sport of sailing into the future.

Photo shows the town reach of the Burnett River during the early 1900’s,the Whams in the foreground on the river bank with Quay Street buildings and Post Office Clock at the rear.

It appears from newspaper reports of the early 1900’s that sailing club events were held either Thursday evenings or Saturday afternoon’s. The set course for 14 ft and under was from the Wharves (now Mid Town Marina precinct) down to a buoy at the Traffic Bridge, to be sailed 2 times round and finishing at the starting point; 14 feet and over from the Wharves to the buoy at the bridge, to a buoy near Millaquin Mill, to be sailed 3 times round and finishing at the starting point.

A Government land grant in 1923 enabled the club to have a small shed built near the old Rowing Club premises as their club headquarters. Sailing activities were confined between the town reach of the river and the river mouth depending on the course, event and weather, an era referred to as ‘wooden boats and iron men’.

Mostly wooden sharpie type hull boats with flat sides, vee bottom, decked, with a half cabin (or turtle) fitted with bunks, water tank, primus stove and food locker, the boats whilst not competing in race events were used for cruising and fishing. Being rather heavy with a length about 20 feet and beam 8 feet, the boats were housed on ‘skids’ at their individual sheds along the river bank which comprised of tee tree saplings driven into mud in pairs, bearers were bolted across at about half high tide water level enabling the boat to be floated in at the right tide leaving it high and dry at low tide. Roofs consisted of second hand iron sheets or half a water tank sliced vertically, far removed from today’s standards.

This early 1900’s photo depicts a differing scene from that of today’s sailing boats and dress. Progressing years were to see boat standards on the improve.

During the 1930’s the Maryborough Sailing Club visited Bundaberg to introduce the 16ft ‘skiffs, local long term sailing identities Arne McCracken, Charlie and Sam Wiles, and Bob and Alby Webb initiated this class into the Bundaberg club fostering faster racing and competition with other city clubs.
Membership of the club increased following their introduction as a minimum crew of 4 were required, another great feature was its availability to be lifted out of the water for storage and transport. They were housed in an unused shed of the Harbour Board adjacent to the Wharves, this required the club to construct a slipway into the river which consisted of a tramway and trolley.

Following the 16ft skiffs introduction (pictured) local sailing changed, sporting modern sails, a working jib, reaching jib, balloon jib and spinnaker up front all made of cotton which clung together when wet. It was class sailing, demanding teamwork and competition amongst the crews. Identifying insignia’s on the mainsail, crew dressed in jerseys with insignia on the back made for a dressy, tidy fleet

The introduction of the ‘Skiffs’ prompted young boating followers to take an interest in the sport and club, windy days offered the possibility of acquiring a 5th seat on one of the boats. Capsizing was a drawback, an end to sailing for the day, as assistance to right the boat again usually consisted of the rescue boat dragging the boat to the nearest mud bank so it could be righted and bailed out.
With the increased interest of young sailing enthusiasts the Bundaberg Sailing Club appointed Arnie McCracken to head a committee to foster their interest.
Just prior to 1938 ‘Nip’ Thorpe designed a junior boat called a trainee dingy which became known as the ’12 foot Thorpe’. Arnie decided this boat was what the club required, some were purchased from Brisbane with a lot built by their owners, they grew in popularity throughout Queensland and were affectionately known as ‘Nip Thorpe’s Navy’.
The Bundaberg Club introduced the Thorpe to their neighboring Maryborough Club in 1940, with whom they had for some time been involved in a yearly regatta held at Hervey Bay.
Juring this Thorpe era a local boat ‘Dawn’ sailed by Alec Pashley and Henry Paap won the Clubs first State Championship honour which was sailed on the Brisbane River in 1940.

The Clubs patron for a number of years until 1946 was local business man Mr Douglas Wyper, pictured below during an Opening Day Sail Past crewed by the Ladies Committee and accompanied by the Scottish Band. Very grand proceedings!

Problems grew with housing the smaller boats prompting the younger members to form their own club :- The Bundaberg Trainee Squadron (The Thorpe Club) had a boat shed erected on the river bank in the vicinity of the original East State School, School Lane, East Bundaberg where their clubs activities lasted for a short time.

With World War 2 raging the main Bundaberg Sailing Club had ceased activities and in 1942 a serious flood struck the river with consequential structural damage imposed on the clubs buildings.

The Thorpe Club reformed in1946 following a meeting organised by Wally Barton and Clem Grimwood as the Bundaberg Sailing Club affiliated with the Trainees Association of Queensland. The club was back in business with Wally Barton, President and Clem Grimwood, Secretary, their funds boasted an immediate financial credit due to Wally having preserved 8 pounds l3 shillings and 4 pence from the clubs pre war days.

The Harbour Board agreed to their old engineering shed being used as a club house, with most boats locally built the number racing was soon in excess of 16 boats. Enthusiasm for the Thorpe’s class spread in Brisbane, Maryborough, Maroochydore, and Gladstone resulting in the first State Title Championships being hosted in Bundaberg in 1951 with 64 boats nominated. That championship went to local boat ‘Slo-mo-shun’ skippered by Ken Stringer and crewed by Mery Steindll.

A rare souvenir program from the Wide Bay and Burnett Sailing Championship ‘Foundation Weekend’ held in 1952 at Bundaberg on the 26th, 27th, 28th January noted:- That the Foundation Weekend Carnival staged by the Bundaberg Sailing Club each year, is in no small measure made possible by the generous support and interest shown by our Trophy donors and subscribers to advertising space in our official program. Prize money totaled 38 pounds 8 shillings and 6 pence with the program being Saturday; Welcome Handicap – Sunday; Invitation Lady’s Skipper’s Race and the Wide Bay and Burnett Championship – Monday; the Farewell Handicap.

The Course’s for all races were set between the Starters Boat and the Buoy in front of the Sailing Club Shed, the yellow Buoy below the Traffic Bridge, then downstream to the lower buoy off Millaquin Mill and on to finish across an imaginary line in front of the Rowing Club Pontoon (pictured below). Commodore at the time was C. Nielson, President: W.J.Barton, Vice President: H. Hoffman, Secretary J.C.Grimwood.

The program also expressed the importance of the Ladies Social Committee role who diligently raised funds toward the clubs needs, catering and social events.

With sailing in ambience during the clubs winter recess of the 1950’s era, two hockey teams were formed from the men and the ladies committee to represent the sailing club with several members from each team going on to represent Bundaberg in the port. Photo shows the Ladies Sailing Club team during a Hockey Club March Past

During 1956
Mr. A. J. McCracken introduced the Gwen 12 (pictured above) to Bundaberg following the popularity of the boat in Victoria. Bundaberg Club gained the 1957 State Title in this class with Skipper A. McCracken and crewman M. Steindl in ‘Gelda’ being first over the line. Following this win the `Gelda’ competed in the next National titles in Perth, it was here Arnie discovered the Pelican class junior boat. His enthusiasm resulted with the Bundaberg club introducing a Pelican class which became popular.

During this era the deteriorating state of old Harbour Board engineering shed was deemed to be unsuitable prompting the club to negotiate with the Bundaberg Rowing Club, Quay Street, Bundaberg to rent a section of their premises sharing the pontoon and ramp facilities, this proved a time of amicable Co-operation and Friendship between the two clubs.

Rowing Club photo-1942 circa

Juniors sailing ‘Pelicans’ , showing the jetty, ramps and pontoon of the Rowers Club.

The Sailing Club by the 1960’s had achieved a strong following which emphasized the need for their own premises, as the Royal Hotel building in Bourbong Street was being renovated, the sailing club committee negotiated to have the bricks and flooring from the hotel dumped on their crown land adjacent to the Rowers Club to fill the bank and form the foundation for the proposed sailing club building.

A single concrete block building was erected in 1964, constructed at a cost of approximately 3,000.00 pounds along with a generous amount of voluntary labour from club members. This first premises the Bundaberg Sailing Club had owned was big enough to house the clubs gear, some boats, amenity blocks and an area for a canteen which was operated by the Ladies Committee.

During August 1971 the Sailing Club purchased the former club house of the Bundaberg Bowls Club (picture below) in Quay Street for 1,250.00 pounds. The building was moved and relocated to become the 2nd story of the concrete block club building, this facility pictured below provided the club with a much improved clubhouse, better amenities and a venue where many social functions were enjoyed.

Former club house of the Bundaberg Bowls Club

The T.A.Q Queensland Thorpe 12ft Sailing Championships were held in Bundaberg on the Easter weekend of the 31st March, 2nd and 3rd April 1972, the Welcoming message in the program by the Commodore M. A. Steindl noted that:- This Easter is the second occasion a State Championship has been sailed in Bundaberg with both occasions being ‘Thorpe’ titles, with a total of 63 boats nominating. The Commodore went on to say, “The Bundaberg Sailing Club was the second club in Queensland to introduce the ‘Thorpe’ class boat’s, since then many boats and crews have passed through the Club and along with our present members have been, and are, proud ships and true sportsmen”.

The Program of Events for the 3 days of competitive sailing began Good Friday, with Easter Saturday events followed by an evening B.B.Q and Cabaret at the Club House.

Sunday racing concluded with a Buffet Tea and Presentation of Trophies with a Farewell Handicap event on Monday with meals available at the clubhouse.

Both the 1952 and 1972 sailing club programs reflect the popularity of the sport of sailing and the dedication of members then and onto the present day.

Progressing years resulted with increased traffic flow in the Burnett River effecting racing constrictions for the Sailing Club in the town reach, launching of the larger sailing boats at the Quay Street site (pictured) was at times un-suitable requiring some boats to be launched from the river bank under the Burnett Traffic Bridge, North Bundaberg prior to competing in club racing events. Prompted by these concerns the requirement for a more suitable venue to better serve the average local sailing enthusiasts to provide options for river and ocean racing and hosting of sailing events for Bundaberg and District became an issue.

During 1979 a planning committee was formed, under the clubs Commodore Mr Ray Foley (1979-1981) a number of sites were investigated in and around Bundaberg with the view to establishing a new sailing venue, the only favourable Off-shore site being at Woodgate was regarded as too great a distance. An exploration of the Burnett River resulted in the discovery of Strathdees Beach which offered all the attributes the Sailing Club were seeking as the site for a new venue from which to operate from.

Negotiation began in earnest with the then Bundaberg Harbour Board for a land lease of the proposed site for the sailing club along with approaches to the then Woongarra Shire Council, with club plans. The club advised council that with proposals for stage 1 club sailing activities would be adjourned to allow for the supply of water to the site, upgrading the existing road, installation of a cattle grid, sanding of the beach area and provision of temporary toilet facilities.

Stage 2 would see the provision of building a boat ramp, clubhouse, boat storage and fencing. Council commended the club on their venture and requested club representatives to confer with council relating to town planning aspects.

The former Sailing Club in Quay Street (picture above) was offered for tender then open for public sale during 1981, a year of speculation and negotiations in relation to the Crown land deed transfer endured for the Commodore Bevan Grohn, committee and trustees. The site was purchased by Messers Mann and Densley, their intention to create a complex involving a restaurant, outdoor eating area, 2 bars and Amenities for visiting yachting people became a reality as: The Spinnaker Restaurant’ Quay Street, Bundaberg.

Saturday night, 6th February 1982 ended an era for the Bundaberg Sailing Club when past and present members gathered for a barbecue to farewell the old club house. Regrets were bound to be mixed with joy and the prospects of a bright future for the new Strathdees Beach location following the signing of transfer papers for the site by the trustees of the clubhouse during that night

With all approvals in place it was time to get started on the project, with funds from the sale of the old club house and a government grant the need for further funds became a priority during the early days of building, fitting out the clubhouse and grounds. Some of the more memorable events were garden parties at Moodies and McKenzie’s residents, curry nights, seafood nights gambling evenings and other activities at the Strathdees Beach club site where limited facilities were available. Another popular event following the completion of sailing for the day was boat rides to the north sand bank at the mouth of the Burnett river where barbecue evenings were held cooking greasy meat patties and kids making ‘twisties’ on the open fires. These were good times enjoyed with good spirits, determination and a team of willing volunteers.

Canteen facilities were operated from a small shed (picture above) prior to the building of the original boatshed which served as the clubhouse, canteen and storage area with the rescue boats moved out to make way for canteen operations each weekend. Manned by the Sabot Mums including Mrs Tappenden, Zahn, Grohn, Routledge and Hewitt and many others the canteen provided essential refreshments to club members. Funds were managed by the Ladies Committee with profits passed on to the club at the Annual General Meetings. Still in use today the boat-shed holds within its walls the tales of many memorable events of those times.

Building of the clubhouse began in earnest, the building contractor was George Christensen and as was the mode of those times, in kind services of assistance were offered by tradesmen and suppliers, along with club members who spent many voluntary hours associated with the building project greatly assisted by the continued support of the ladies committee.

Three years on from the beginning of the project in 1979, the Bundaberg Sailing Club in1982 moved into a new era when the new club house was finally completed.

A proud achievement for the Bundaberg Sailing Club, attributed to the efforts of the many people within the club, and the general community for their dedication

Saturday 6th March 1982 the $58,000.00 clubhouse at Strathdee’s Beach was officially opened by Mr. Claude Wharton, Minister for Burnett and Minster for Works and Housing, a proud day for all involved in the venture.

Bundaberg Sailing Club Commodore Bevan Grohn (pictured above) presenting his speech at the opening ceremony with club Trustee and past Commodore Carl Nielson at left with Janette Grohn and Mr. Claud Wharton right.

With the sailing club fleet numbering an average of 40 craft each Saturday afternoon, made up of Catamarans, Lasers, 125’s, Gwens, Sabots, Junior boats, Yachts and Trailer Sailor’s, the new venue would cater to the needs of every sailor on and off the water, provide excellent rigging, storage and launching facilities at the one site. Further advantages were provided for the setting of true championship courses for all classes of yachts to junior sabots along with the availability of racing out off Burnett Heads to Bargara and ‘Learn to Sail Classes’ would be provided with a safer environment, important to novice sailors.

The requirement for an on site caretaker for the clubhouse was filled by Ray and Susie Mathews who did much to promote the club to all visiting yachties. Friday evening get togethers were a regular event at the club with many impromptu fires on the beach and the associated party.

Subsidies also became available for the building of a boat Ramp and Wash Down Bay with Bernie Tobin as the engineer who is still an active club member.

The Trustees of the Junior Boat Account provided funding to purchase the current Cruise Craft “Freda Olsen”, to enable juniors to sail offshore, named after the wife of the proprietor of the “Club Hotel” where for many years past and senior members ran “Chook Raffles” to raise funds towards Junior Sailing development in the club.

The Gladstone to Bundaberg Yacht Race was held annually on Australia Day weekend with boats from Gladstone punching a strong head wind to Bundaberg. Former Commodore, Les Routledge recalled the following memories of those races. Rod Mathies with his Crowther Catamaran “Quartz” sailed to Gladstone to compete in the race on several occasions, on his second attempt a cyclone off the east coast resulted with the race starting with only one competitor “Quartz” returning to Bundaberg in rough seas. Brad Barker a well-known member of the Gladstone Club was one of the regular competitors in the race and is still a competitor in the Gladstone Yacht Club fleets.

The smallest Bundaberg boat to enter this race was a Seaway 25 trailer sailor named “Shiveruna” owned by Ray McKenzie and crewed by John Palu and Les Routledge, they led the fleet on handicap out of the Gladstone harbour to Bustard Head where a strong SE wind made it difficult for the small boat to make headway. Off Red Rock south of Round Hill, it was blowing so hard that the boat was being knocked down in the gusts and could not make headway. A long 26 hours! On occasions, this boat was sailed to Gladstone on Friday nights arriving in Gladstone to race with the Gladstone Club on the Saturday afternoon then to be trailed back to Bundaberg on the Sunday, certainly showing a keen spirit for sailing.

Progressing years have seen the Bundaberg Sailing Club prosper.

During 2004 a floating pontoon and jetty were installed along with a ramp to the clubhouse for disabled members, both made possible with funds provided by local and state govern¬ment grants.

The Club in 2008 enjoys a full sailing calender each year including the : Intercity Series; Inner Circle Rum Regatta; Midtown Marina Midnight Run and the Bargara Bash Yacht Race and affiliation with Yachting Queensland, the State Body and Yachting Australia, the National Body

Improvements to the interior and exterior of the clubhouse, equipment and grounds have enhanced the club facilities offering a fully equipped licensed clubhouse, social activities, secure storage, parking and an onsite caretaker.

Apart from the regular sailing days a range of activities are offered including, Sail Training for members and the community, a Sailability Program for disabled groups which seeks to include the widest spectrum of people in active sport and a Learn to Sail Program for youth of the community which encourages membership to our Junior Sailing Squad.

Membership of the club is also offered to motor boating enthusiasts as we continue to propel the club, sport of sailing and comradeship into the future